By Chaim Gold
Vienna is where it all started. In 1923, Rav Meir Shapiro proposed the concept of a Daf HaYomi in Vienna. In Elul, 1929, the first siyum haShas was held in the Sophiensaele Hall in Vienna and now, on 2 Nissan, 2018, a large siyum on Daf HaYomi Seder Nezikin, was held at the same Sophiensaele Hall in Vienna.
The siyum was arranged by Dirshu, the worldwide Torah movement that has transformed daf yomi learning for tens of thousands of Yidden by establishing a testing regimen that insures that thousands of Yidden the world over not only ‘do’ the daf but actually learn the daf, know the daf and are ready to get tested on it. They are rewarded for excellent results.
In advance of the siyum in Vienna and other siyumim in locales worldwide, the senior members of Dirshu’s hanhalah led by its Nasi, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, visited senior Gedolei Yisrael from Eretz Yisrael who not only gave heartfelt berachos to lomdei Dirshu on their accomplishments up until now, but with their far-reaching vision, were already looking ahead to the limud of Seder Kodshim, the final seder in the daf yomi cycle which will culminate in the next Dirshu World Siyum.
The venerated Rosh Yeshiva of Kamenitz, HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Scheiner, shlita, despite his advanced age and weakness, became infused with energy when he heard about the upcoming siyum in Vienna and that preparations were already underway for the next Dirshu World Siyum. Rav Scheiner exclaimed, “You are doing revolutionary things on behalf of Torah! Dirshu has accomplished things that have never been achieved before!”
At the home of HaGaon HaRav Gershon Edelstein, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of the Ponovezh Yeshiva, the Rosh Yeshiva received the Dirshu delegation with great warmth. When Rav Edelstein was told about the plans for the siyum in Vienna during the month of Nissan and the plans to also establish a daf hayomi b’halacha shiur in every shul in Vienna, Rav Edelstein was impressed and inquired about the size and make-up of the community in Vienna.
Rav Hofstedter then related to the Rosh Yeshiva the remarkable story that transpired at the most recent Dirshu Convention in Stamford, Connecticut where a yungerman bought the one aliyah sold at the convention for 10,000 blatt Gemara! Rav Gershon was flabbergasted! “That is far more blatt than the entire Shas!” he remarked. Rav Hofstedter explained the very systematic chazarah system that this talmid chacham implemented and told Rav Edelstein that just last month he participated in the siyum in New York that the man made on the 10,000 blatt learned in one year.
Rav Gershon gave his heartfelt berachah for success in the upcoming limud of Seder Kodshim and the major Dirshu World Siyum that will follow.
With great yiras hakovod, the hanhala of Dirshu approached the humble abode of HaGaon HaRav Dov Landau, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of the Slabodka Yeshiva. Rav Landau gave his heartfelt berachah for hatzlachah rabbah in advance of the siyum on Nezikin and the Dirshu World Siyum as lomdei Dirshu embark on the last seder in the cycle.
Rav Landau’s home is no stranger to Dirshu activities. Just a few months ago, a beautiful haschala of Dirshu’s daf hayomi b’halacha on hilchos Shabbos, Chelek Gimmel of Mishnah Berurah was held at the home of Rav Landau and attended by a number of poskim. In his remarks, Rav Dov said, “Those who understand the importance of learning hilchos Shabbos and facilitating the learning of hilchos Shabbos and halacha in general for others are worthy of tremendous berachah. A person cannot move on Shabbos without the knowledge of hilchos Shabbos, in all of their myriad details. Learning hilchos Shabbos with a program enables a person over the course of time to learn all of the halachos and when he does that, he is zocheh to everything good!”
One of Dirshu’s most enthusiastic supporters who, despite his advanced age is always ready to come and give chizuk to lomdei Dirshu has been the great Sephardic Rosh Yeshiva, HaGaon HaRav Shimon Baadani, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva, Yeshiva Torah V’Chaim and a senior member of the Shas Moetzet Chachmei HaTorah. In his fascinating recent meeting with Rav Hofstedter and other members of the Dirshu leadership, Rav Baadani emphasized that the most important thing is to encourage lomdei Torah to chazer, to repeatedly review what they learn, because no one has ever been successful in learning without constant review.”
One of the inspiring visits was the one to the Sanz-Klausenberg Rebbe, shlita, in Netanya. Rav Hofstedter highlighted how the Rebbe’s father, the previous Sanz-Klausenberger Rebbe, with the creation of Mifal HaShas, was the first one to encourage accountability in Torah with testing and served as an inspiration for Dirshu.
When the Rebbe heard about the siyum before Pesach in Vienna and after Pesach in Australia, he said, “It is clear that the fact that more and more people are joining the daf hayomi is because of the large gatherings made to celebrate the accomplishments of the lomdim. I recently travelled back and forth to America and on the trip, I saw so many Yidden, of all types siting and leaning the daf hayomi. This wasn’t always the case.”
HaGaon HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman, zt’l, had attached tremendous value to the role that Dirshu plays in facilitating limud haTorah and he possessed tremendous love for all lomdei Torah. He attended Dirshu’s major events, even the most recent daf hayomi b’halacha siyum in the Nokia Stadium when he was over 100 years old.
The hanhala of Dirshu visited his son and successor as Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Orchos Torah, HaGaon HaRav Shraga Shteinman, shlita, who is also a son-in-law of HaGaon HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita.
Rav Hofstedter related numerous stories about Rav Shteinman’s efforts on behalf of Dirshu and his personal friendship that exuded tremendous warmth. Rav Shraga nodded in agreement and said, “My father felt a shutfus, a partnership with Dirshu.” Rav Shraga Shteinman continued, “What you are doing—the Gemara and the daf hayomi b’halacha Mishnah Berurah program—are a tremendous zechus!”
HaGaon HaRav Eliyahu Abba Shaul, Rosh Yeshivas Ohr L’Tzion has also been an enthusiastic supporter of Dirshu and Dirshu’s programs for bachurim in his yeshiva.
When Rav Abba Shaul heard about the siyum in Vienna and the upcoming siyumim in Australia, Budapest, and Berlin where so much Torah is being learned and where people are taking tests, he was filled with joy. “Pilei Pelaim! There is nothing greater than this degree of zikui harabbim,” he said.
Perhaps the words of Rav Yitzchok Scheiner best encapsulated the thoughts and reactions of the numerous Gedolei Yisrael that Dirshu visited in advance of the upcoming siyumim. He said, “[Facilitating so much Torah learning with tests and accountability] is something that makes me jealous of Dirshu. I know that jealousy is generally not permitted, but in this case, I am jealous of the harbotzas Torah! Hashem should bentsch the entire mishpacha of Dirshu!”